Ciaran Brady, editor,
The Encyclopedia of Ireland
(Oxford University Press, 2000)

I call The Encyclopedia of Ireland my "everything about Ireland" book. This is the first book I reach for when I want to find information on anything relating to Ireland. But it is much more than just an infrequently used encyclopedia. This is a fascinating pleasure read. But, because of the large size and heavy weight, I highly recommend you use some type of book prop. It will get heavy after 50 pages or so.

There are more than 2,000 entries that range from people and places to politics and folklore. These include 300 biographies, 400 geographical entries, 200 quotations, 500 historical and cultural entries, and 15 chronologies. You can read about the history of rugby in Ireland or acquaint yourself with Gaelic football. Perhaps you would like to know what three factors shaped agriculture in Ireland and how it moved from pastoral to plantation systems. There is even an article on tracing your Irish roots, complete with website addresses and contact information.

A part that I particularly love is the website listing. If you desire more information about a subject than is provided in this book, you can check the alphabetical listing in the back for a related site. Since I have never been able to visit Ireland, the sections of full-color photographs strongly appeal to my senses. I can almost smell the fresh breeze from the water and the scent of a spring meadow when I stare at these brilliant pictures. The entire book is heavily illustrated -- a feast for the eyes as well as the brain.

This is one of those classic books that you can read time and again for many years and never tire of the content. The 389 large pages will continue to fascinate you each time you open it, while the frequent divisions provide nice stopping points for the person who only has time to read a few pages per sitting.

If you have an interest in Ireland or how the Irish culture has influenced the rest of the world, The Encyclopedia of Ireland should be in your collection. It is well worth the purchase price!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 9 August 2003

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